Ray eyed the bread crumbs on the pavement. He was an orphan right after his birth and life made him an urchin. Yet, he was not just an innocent and naive 10-year-old. He was street-smart and took care of himself. The signs of early winter made him shiver already. He saved the left-over bread in his satchel and reclined on his usual bench at the city-park ignoring the rule written across in bold red letters which read; ‘Bench meant to sit, not settle’.
Staring at the enormous apartment opposite, he tried to understand the lives of those several kids who were safe and secure enjoying cozy fine dine every evening. But then, if he had parents constantly hovering over him, he could not live the way he did now. He would have to go to school wearing the same clothes everyday and belong to a nerd-herd? ‘No way’! he said aloud.
He looked at Sam’s balcony but was as quickly disheartened when the lights went off. Ray considered Sam to be his friend, a cool brother who protected him from street-thugs when Ray broke into a fight with them. And finally a teacher whom he looked up to. They had known each other for 5 years now. Saturday nights were jamming sessions. Ray worked his way through the flute while Sam mastered bass guitar. Sam would seldom ditch Ray, tonight would be one Ray concluded. Cussing under his breath, he pulled out his flute.
From a distance under the shadow of dusk, a pair of hunting eyes gazed at Ray. Listening to Ray’s tune, this lurker went smug. Tonight was perfect timing he thought. The lurker had waited patiently observing Ray’s improvement. This kid was no ordinary he knew, but in Sam’s company he had become the diamond from the mere rock he was when the lurker had first found Ray. He stepped out stealthily from behind the huge Oak tree. He could only see Ray’s tiny head from behind which looked like an Orange fruit thanks to the streetlights’ glint on him. Like a wolf tracking it’s prey he was just 2 steps away, removing his pocket knife he stretched his hands to grab Ray when he heard footsteps.
The tall figure was also 2 steps away from the other side. Ray got up and ran towards the voice calling out for him. The lurker disappeared in the shadows again listening to Sam challenging Ray for a race up-till the broken garage at the end of the road which they called their practice-area!
As they manned up for the evening, Sam helped his student with the latest composition. The garage was a dirt cheap 12 x 24 feet basic space. With a ‘no rent’ proposition in exchange for a lawn clean every Sunday morning, this band could ask for nothing more. Except! The owners of this place were an old couple aged over 70 called Mr. & Mrs. Cranky, with no tolerance to sound. They called these sessions as ‘Death of Music’. Every broiling tiff was cooled off with Ray’s charming smile to Mrs.Cranky. Not only did the Cranky couple grant an extension, but also Ray ended up smuggling a candy from Mrs. Cranky. This pretty much was a normal Saturday evening for Ray.
The practice gave way to a beautiful composition which Sam found worthy of a recording. “Ray! We hold a chance here, tonight’s gig is a score for sure” said Sam. Ray just blinked, for him, this was stardom already. Being with Sam, playing flute, learning and getting better without his own knowledge was a rockstars’ life. Sam just grinned and said “You’ll see”. They wrapped up the session and shut the garage. They walked back to Sam’s apartment, as always Ray declined the offer for a sleep-over. Sam, even though concerned, let it go as he knew he could not push Ray for anything which he disliked. And besides, he kept checking through the night from his balcony. He gave Ray a take-away dinner box and Ray could not stop grinning when he smelt is favorite grilled sandwich with extra cheese!
Ray polished off his dinner in one-go. He took out his sleeping bag, gifted by Sam again for Ray’s self-proclaimed 5th year birthday on 27th March! When Sam had asked why he had chosen that date, Ray had replied “Because, I want it to be with yours.” With that, Sam knew Ray would hold a special place in his life.
A happy day Ray thought smiling!
Ray’s hyper mind with an exciting evening was certainly not a recipe for sleep.He walked around the park for a few minutes hoping for exertion, circling the mini fountain he played his favorite tune.
Ray felt something on his back, as he turned he saw a pocket knife dangling before his face. Run was the obvious reflex his mind came up with but his body was fastened with such a strong grip, he was unable to move an inch. He was thrown down with his face to the ground cutting his lip, gashing his eyebrow. The smell of his own blood made him nauseous. The park; his home, resembled the dangerous woods he’d mocked while reading the Little Red Riding Hood. He admired the ending of that tale and he knew he would have one too.
Repeating it in his mind, he clenched his teeth when the gravel peeled his tender skin and the flute rolled away from him.
When the drag came to an end, he realized he was at the entrance of the park and Sam’s balcony was within sight.With all his might he yelled out to Sam!
Like the cattle, he was loaded in the rear of the tempo,even with a bruised eye, he swore to have seen the light-bulb flicker….the rest was blurred.